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Last week, it was the Kentucky juveniles who showed their stuff, and now, all eyes will turn to Aqueduct for the 104th running of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. Leading the field will be Godolphin Racing’s Avery Island, who will look to register his second straight graded stakes victory after winning the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes in his last start.
“He’s doing very well and just had a nice work, so he’s ready to go,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully, he keeps improving since the races are going to get tougher, but we think he’ll like the mile and 1/8. He’s doing everything right. He’s stepped up before and we think he’ll like the distance. He came come from off the pace or be close, like he’s been, so we’ll see how it unfolds.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out one of the main challengers in Biblical, an $800,000 half-brother to Princess of Sylmar and a son of Tapit who won going this distance last time out in a maiden special weight over this race track. Jockey John Velazquez will be riding once again.
“He recovered well in his last race,” Pletcher said. “We always felt he had some talent, and going a mile and 1/8 is what he’s (suited) for, so we’d like to see him step up.”
The Remsen will be run as race 9 on a 10-race program with a scheduled post time of 3:45 p.m. The race, along with others, will be shown to a national television audience when Aqueduct Live airs from 3-4:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2. Other races included on the show are the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle (Race 8, with an approximate post time of 3:12 p.m.) and the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile (Race 10 at 4:16 p.m.).
#3 Avery Island – One of the rising stars in the 2-year-old division, he returned after a poor debut to impressively win two in a row. First, it was a romp at Saratoga in a maiden special weight over a couple of talented horses in High North and Biblical. Next, he dominated rivals again in the Nashua over this race track by 4 3/4 lengths. Since then, he put up a bullet workout at Belmont Park, where he was the fastest of 91 horses going 4 furlongs. He looks ready to fire another big race, and if he does, he should be tough to beat in this spot.
#4 Biblical – A flashy purchase at the sales, he’d yet to show his best stride until last time out in a maiden special weight, where he won by a length over another highly-touted Pletcher horse, Marconi. His maiden win was at the same distance as this race, and with some improvement, he should be good enough to compete. However, he lost to Avery Island by over 9 lengths two races back, so that shows the level of improvement needed to beat our top choice.
#7 Alkhaatam – Still a maiden, he was a solid third in his debut race at Belmont Park going a mile. Trainer Chad Brown won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with maiden Good Magic, so it wouldn’t be out of the norm for him to win this race. Brown also does not always crank his horses up for their debut races. An improvement by this horse is expected, and the maiden race he came out of earned a speed figure that’s already competitive with this bunch.
#2 Triple Dog Dare – If you like Alkhaatam, then you also have to like Triple Dog Dare, as they exit the same maiden race having crossed the line pretty much at the same time, and they both seem to have upside when going longer. Javier Castellano, aboard last time out, returns to ride again. It’s also worth noting that he was beaten by Montauk, another highly-regarded Todd Pletcher horse, in his debut race.
#1 Bandito – After struggling in his debut race going short at Churchill Downs, he stretched out at Keeneland for his next start and won by 2 lengths. That bodes well for him here, as his win came at a mile and 1/8. However, last time out was over a sloppy race track, and the race was scheduled for the turf before the rain hit. You have to wonder if Romans thought this horse was suited for the turf, and maybe he won’t fare well on a dry track. However, Romans has been hitting the board in a lot of 2-year-old races lately, so he’s a must-play underneath.
#8 Vouch – His extremely impressive debut race opened my eyes, but the race was at Laurel Park, so the competition is questionable. However, trainer Arnaud Delacour is successful in New York and has lured jockey Joel Rosario to ride. He won that debut race by over 8 lengths, but the even better news is that he did it at a mile and 1/16. That’s a good sign, as there will be some in this race who do not want to go that far.
#5 Catholic Boy – The real wild card in the race, he’s had great success on turf but will make his first-ever start on dirt here. He won the Grade 3 With Anticipation two races back at Saratoga, then finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his last start. He’s the leader of this group from a class standpoint by a wide margin based on those two races. His pedigree suggests that he may do well on the dirt, so there’s some hope for him. This will be an interesting experiment.
#9 V. I. P. Code – He won both a maiden special weight and an allowance race at Laurel Park, but the mid-Atlantic circuit horses sometimes doesn’t do well when moving to the NYRA circuit. He did finish second in a $100,000 turf stakes event at Belmont Park in his last start, but switching to the dirt and jumping up in class will make this a tough challenge.
#10 Tap Rap Strike – He won on debut last time out, but as stated earlier, I’m skeptical of the mid-Atlantic 2-year-olds until they prove it at other tracks. He only won by a 1/2-length at Parx, so it’s logical to think that he will have to show major improvement to win here.
#6 Millionaire Runner – It took this horse four tries to break his maiden, and when he did, it was in a maiden claiming event. Jumping up to a Grade 2 race off of a maiden claiming win is a gigantic leap, and moving from Parx to the NYRA circuit is tough as well.
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